Opening Statement of Senator Jeff Sessions
Environment and Public Works
September 23, 1997
S.1180: The Endangered Species Recovery Act

I would like to begin by thanking Senator Chafee for calling this hearing to discuss S. 1180, the Endangered Species Recovery Act. This legislation, if enacted, would serve to reauthorize the Endangered Species Act through 2003, and I believe it appropriate that we have this hearing today to discuss some of the more controversial aspects of not only this legislation, but also of current law. I would also like to commend both Senator Chafee and Senator Kempthorne, the Chairman of the Drinking Water, Fisheries and Wildlife subcommittee, for the time and effort they have expended towards bringing this legislation forward.

Mr. Chairman, as a native Alabamian I have been truly blessed to come from a state with a rich assortment of diverse plant and animal species living within its borders. Alabama's legacy of biodiversity has been reflected within the context of the Endangered Species Act as Alabama currently hosts 87 plant and animal species that have been identified as either endangered or threatened, the fifth highest total in the nation. Constant exposure to so many species clearly gives Alabamians a unique perspective on the importance of efforts which seek to preserve not only our own indigenous species, but also those species whose ranges fall outside our borders.

Clearly, the large number of species Alabama hosts have also given rise to a large number of private individuals, landowners, and commercial entities who have had to navigate the complex world of federal Endangered Species Act compliance. As we advance the important goal of species preservation, it is equally important that our efforts do not lose sight of the need to protect these people from many of the burdensome and costly regulations and procedures that they face under current law. I think we all can agree that many of the concerns these individuals have raised, for example concerns about unwarranted federal consultation in permitting programs that have been delegated to the States, are valid and merit our serious attention. I believe that it is possible to reform current Endangered Species law in a common sense fashion to advance the dual goals of species protection and protection of private property rights, and I will be interested in hearing the comments of the witnesses who are assembled here today as to whether this legislation successfully promotes both of these important goals.

To this end, I would also like to thank the witnesses for coming forward today to present their views to the Committee. Clearly, the panelists today represent a broad range of interests, and I am certain their input will prove to be of assistance to us during our deliberations.